Ranking the Pac-12’s Top 20 Non-Conference Games: Part I

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 22nd, 2015

Part I contains games #20 – #11. Check back later today for the top 10 non-conference games featuring Pac-12 teams.

Last season, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, UCLA had the toughest non-conference strength of schedule among Pac-12 teams, good for 91st in the nation. Beyond the Bruins, only Stanford (136th), Utah (155th) and Arizona (180th) finished among the top 200. As a conference, those are obscene numbers. We talked a lot last year about the state of the game and watchability and the like, and yet, when a major conference like the Pac-12 can’t be bothered to play halfway decent opponents in their elective games, that is a sure sign that something is wrong in the game. This year, things should be somewhat better but it is still a mixed bag. Big ups to teams like Utah, UCLA and Arizona State for scheduling well outside of league play, but several other teams still missed the mark. Arizona, for instance, a program never known for ducking quality competition, has a decent-ish schedule, but one that is missing its typical oomph. Oregon State, a team seemingly on the rise with good returning talent coupled with a big recruiting class, has a schedule where, arguably, a home game against Valparaiso is the second-toughest game on the slate. You’ve got to do better, Beavs.

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Larry Krystkowiak and Utah, In Particular, Have Done An Excellent Job Scheduling

With all this in mind, we’re going to check in on the 20 best games we’ll see before the conference slate kicks in around the turn of the calendar year. A couple caveats: First, we’re doing this using MLB All-Star game rules, so every team gets an appearance here; and second, games that are the first game in a multi-game tournament get bonus points. Without further ado, let’s count one man’s picks for the Pac-12 non-conference games to watch.

20. 11/26 USC vs Wichita State in Orlando, FL (Advocare Invitational) – In the Thanksgiving weekend tournament formerly known as the Old Spice Classic (among other things), the Trojans get to swing for the fences against the Shockers. While it would indeed be a shock if Andy Enfield’s bunch advances to the semifinals, this game will serve as a great barometer for USC’s improvement.

19. 11/13 Washington vs. Texas in Shanghai, China – Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s plan of taking the Pac-12 to the Asian market takes a big step forward with this game. As a bonus, we’ll get introduced to all those brand new Huskies via a big-time ESPN game.

18. 12/22 Washington State vs. Oklahoma in Honolulu, HI (Diamond Head Classic) – There’s not a ton expected from the Cougars this season, but by the time we get to this Christmas week tournament, they’ll have an established identity and should have plenty of wins over a meager non-conference slate under their belt. Might as well swing for the fences against Buddy Hield and the Sooners, with teams like Northern Iowa, BYU, Harvard, New Mexico and Auburn rounding out other potential opponents in the tourney.

Buddy Hield And The Sooners Will Be The Favorites To Win The Diamond Head Classic

Buddy Hield And The Sooners Will Be The Favorites To Win The Diamond Head Classic

17. 11/16 Baylor at Oregon – There is no signature non-conference game for the Ducks, although it is solid enough overall with Fresno State, UC Irvine and Long Beach State visiting Eugene and trips to UNLV, Boise State and Alabama. But this game against the Bears, an 8:30 PM start as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, is pretty intriguing.

16. 12/23 Oregon State vs. Kansas in Kansas City – As mentioned above, this is an underwhelming non-conference slate for the Beavers. Home games against Iona, Valparaiso and Nevada, plus a “neutral site” game in Portland against Tulsa, are fine, but not the type of games to earn national notice. Meanwhile, this trip to Kansas to face the Jayhawks will be Wayne Tinkle’s team’s best chance at getting national publicity, and it’ll be a significant underdog.

15. 12/16 Arizona State at UNLV – The Sun Devils did an excellent job in scheduling, with trips to Creighton and Kentucky wrapped around a visit from Texas A&M preceding this tough road trip — and that’s not even mentioning the tournament they play in (which we’ll get to shortly). But at some point Bobby Hurley’s team is going to need to find a way to win some of these games. While facing a talented Runnin’ Rebels team at the Thomas & Mack Center is nothing easy, it may provide a better chance than some of their other big non-conference games.

14. 11/13 Colorado vs. Iowa State in Sioux Falls – This isn’t exactly the very first game of the season, but it’s damn close as the Buffaloes and Cyclones will tip off at 2:00 PM Pacific time on the opening Friday of the season. It’s a battle of programs looking for new Mayors and Tad Boyle’s club will have its hands full with Georges Niang and the rest of the bunch that Fred Hoiberg left behind.

Colorado's Josh Scott Will Need To Come Up Big Against The Cyclones (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Colorado’s Josh Scott Will Need To Come Up Big Against The Cyclones (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

13. 11/26 Stanford vs. Villanova in Brooklyn, NY (NIT Season Tip-Off) Thanksgiving afternoon, 1:30 PM PST. Don’t follow the pack and snooze through an NFL game. Get a turkey warm-up with the Cardinal and the Wildcats in the Big Apple. There’s not a lot of meat on the bones of the Stanford non-conference schedule (visits from SMU and Texas and a visit to Saint Mary’s are the only big things outside of this tournament), but we’ll probably know what to make of Johnny Dawkins’ team by the time November is out.

12. 11/23 Arizona State vs. North Carolina State in Brooklyn, NY (Legends Classic) –We’ve already told you how tough the Sun Devils have scheduled, but their part in the Legends Classic is rough as well. Not only will they get a trip from Belmont out of the preliminaries of this tournament, but after facing the Wolfpack in the semifinal round, they’ll be greeted with either Ben Simmons and LSU or Henry Ellenson and Marquette in their second game in Brooklyn. Either way, that’s a likely lottery pick Hurley’s team will be facing.

11. 11/19 Boise State at Arizona (Wooden Legacy) – A week prior to these two teams tipping off on opposite sides of the bracket in Fullerton as part of the Wooden Legacy, they’ll meet in Tucson in a non-bracketed game in this tournament. The winners of the two biggest conferences in the West last season, this will be a good test for both teams. The Wildcats probably have more overall talent, but the Broncos get the nod in experience. After pulling out a game in Viejas Arena last February to clinch the Mountain West title, this Boise team won’t be intimidated by the frenzied McKale Center. As far as the main bracket of the Wooden Legacy is concerned, the ‘Cats open with Santa Clara, then could be due for a date with Kris Dunn and Providence before possibly facing Michigan State (or this self-same Boise team) in the championship game.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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